A moment of healing

Posted in News

First and Second Peoples in the Uniting Church have marked the 10th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations by calling for urgent action on sovereignty, treaty and Indigenous education.

President of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Rev Garry Dronfield (pictured left) believes the Apology shows that Australia can address the injustices of past and present.

“This was a moment of healing in our nation's history. It also sent a message of hope for the future as we work towards treaty and sovereignty,” Garry says.

“We must not forget that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the members of our Stolen Generations and their families continue to feel the pain of the past.

“This anniversary of the Apology should remind us all of the journey that we are on together. As the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, we see the hope of a positive future under God's direction with the guidance, support and commitment of all our communities.”

The Uniting Church made its formal apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 1997, after the release of the landmark Bringing Them Home report by Mick Dodson and former UCA President Sir Ronald Wilson. (Read the Uniting Church’s 1997 statement on the Stolen Generations here.)

Current Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan (pictured right) has apologised again for the Church’s part in that pain, acknowledging the continuing hurt.

“At the recent Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress National Conference we heard stories told through showers of tears about the painful memories of the past.

“There is still so much more we have to do to truly correct the wrongs which former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd acknowledged and to give hope for healing. The National Apology included commitments about ensuring this never happens again and a commitment to closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage,” Stuart says.

“The latest Closing the Gap reports have shown that we are not on track in life expectancy, literacy and numeracy, school attendance and employment.”

The 10th Closing the Gap report was presented by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday 12 February, 2018. This report shows that three of the seven targets are on track, while others are set to expire before they have been met.

In 2017, the only measure that was on track related to halving the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020. This year two more have been identified as being on track - the target to halve the gap in Indigenous child mortality rates and the target related to improving early childhood education attendance.

The Prime Minister says a refreshed Closing the Gap policy will be announced later this year, and will focus on communities and states, rather than setting broad national targets.

“I believe we need a comprehensive education plan which addresses all the shortcomings and fragmentation that exists in Indigenous education,” says Stuart.

“That plan should provide access to secondary education in remote communities and appropriately funded indigenous boarding places which are able to address the complex needs of students.”

Stuart also reminded Uniting Church members of the special Covenanting relationship between the Church and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.

“In the words of the original Covenant, we must recommit ourselves to building understanding between First and Second Peoples in every locality and to build relationships which respect the rights of First Peoples to self-determination,” Stuart says.

“In this our fellowship will be a witness to God’s love for all.”

Photo from the Adelaide Congress Ministry Facebook page. Thanks for always sharing such great photos, Adelaide Congress and Rev Dean Whittaker!

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